In his reelection campaign last year, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge presented one major message to the voters of his state. In countless television and radio commercials, Cassidy touted his endorsement by President Donald Trump. The message was clear: Trump and Cassidy were close allies, and the senator fervently supported the president’s agenda.
Cassidy won reelection by a comfortable margin, no doubt assisted by the president’s endorsement. Without the support of Trump, Cassidy may have faced a strong GOP opponent and might have had a tougher time winning another six-year term in office.
The president also carried Louisiana by a comfortable 59% to 40% margin in November, virtually identical to the size of his 2016 victory in the state. Clearly, Cassidy understood Trump’s enduring popularity in Louisiana and took advantage of this support to win reelection.
After securing victory, Cassidy immediately changed his tune about Trump. He was one of the first Republicans in Congress to declare Joe Biden the president, despite Trump’s ongoing legal challenges in multiple states.
His opposition to Trump intensified after the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Cassidy blamed Trump for the violence and did not condemn his impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives. Even though Chief Justice John Roberts refused to participate in the impeachment trial of private citizen Donald Trump, Cassidy voted for the proceedings to move forward in the U.S. Senate. In this trial, the “judge” was a biased Democratic senator who had previously expressed support for Trump’s conviction.
The trial was an outrage as Democratic House managers were exposed using doctored evidence to present their case against Trump. The entire proceedings were deemed unconstitutional by many legal scholars since Trump was the first former president to be subjected to an impeachment trial.
In their presentation, House managers accused Trump of inciting violence in his Jan. 6 speech in Washington. However, in his speech, Trump called for his supporters to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
His language, such as urging his supporters to “fight,” was very typical for a political speech. His attorneys showed innumerable examples of Democrats imploring their supporters to “fight” or “fight like hell” without any negative consequences. For example, in 2017, no one suggested impeaching Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., because his supporter was inspired to shoot Republican congressmen at a baseball field, almost killing House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and several other people.
Despite the compelling case presented by his attorneys, the problems with the trial, the evidence, and the judge, 57 senators voted to convict Trump. Cassidy joined six other Republicans to vote for conviction. Our senator defended his vote by claiming that “our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.”
This decision was greeted by howls of protest from his former Republican supporters in Louisiana. Cassidy was immediately censured by the executive committee of the Louisiana Republican Party. The vote was unanimous, reflecting the political island that Cassidy now occupies among Louisiana Republicans. None of the four GOP congressmen from Louisiana voted to impeach the former president and the other U.S. senator from Louisiana, John Kennedy of Madisonville, voted to acquit him.
There is no rift in the Louisiana Republican Party, as there is no large movement indicating support for Cassidy’s controversial vote. There is no recall mechanism for members of the U.S. Senate, so Cassidy has six years to hope that Louisiana voters forget what he did.
The political condition known as “Trump Derangement Syndrome” propelled Democrats to impeach the former president twice. Both of his impeachments were unsuccessful and very questionable. Trump has the distinction of being the first president to be impeached and acquitted twice.
Sadly, the toxic “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is not just limited to Democrats as Cassidy has now been infected. In an interview on ABC-TV, Cassidy discussed the future of the Republican Party. He claimed, “I think his (Trump) force wanes. The Republican Party is more than just one person. The Republican Party is about ideas.”
Yes, Senator Cassidy, the GOP is about ideas and the most popular ideas being presented today are the ones that led Trump to victory in 2016 and delivered him 74.2 million votes in 2020. If Senator Cassidy cannot accept that reality, he will remain on a political island for the remainder of his political career.
Jeff Crouere is a political commentator on radio and television in New Orleans.